So if you haven’t already noticed from my Instagram feed, I’m not in Beijing.
In fact, I didn’t even get near the country.
Turns out, the travel agent who told me I didn’t need a visa because I wouldn’t be in China for 72 hours was wrong.
Here’s how it went down:
I went to the travel agent’s office with just enough time to get a visa to China, which is required in most cases. He told me as long as I wouldn’t be in the country for more than 72 hours, I didn’t need one. He had clients who had done it before, so I shouldn’t worry.
I trusted his advice. I mean, who was I to go against a guy who makes his living scheduling vacations and business trips?
Last night I picked up Melissa Chang and got to the airport with about an hour until boarding. As I was checking into the flight, the Hawaiian Airlines worker asked for my visa. I told her I didn’t have one.
After several huddles among employees, the woman came back and said I wasn’t going to be allowed on the plane. It was company policy that everyone had to have a visa. So I was out of luck. (She was very apologetic about it, though.)
I’ve gotten a lot of flack online — primarily on Facebook — about what I did. I even got called stupid, which was bit overly harsh. Look, I went with information I thought was valid. Did I know you needed a visa to enter China? Yes. Did I know about the policy allowing foreigners into the country for less than 72 hours? Yes. But did I know about the minor stipulations — like you had to be transiting through China, yada yada — that an expert like a travel agent would know? Absolutely not.
It’s not like I was trying to circumvent getting a visa — or trying to get out of this trip to Beijing, as was also implied. It was a simple but disastrous mistake — and one that I will likely regret for awhile.
So that’s what happened.
I went to Chinatown this morning and grabbed a box of baked manapua from Royal Kitchen. I took it to my surfing buddies, who were meeting for breakfast, and told them this was their omiyage from China.
Because that’s as close as I was going to get!